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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

UW-Madison recognized for civic engagement in 2020 presidential election

The Students Learn Students Vote (SLSV) Coalition hosted a virtual awards ceremony Friday awarding UW-Madison “for exemplifying the SLSV Coalition’s Guiding Principle of Removing Barriers and Increasing Access.”

The award title is shared with Alabama A&M University, an institution also recognized for its removal of barriers impacting voter suppression. 

“We at the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition are firm believers that, in order to realize full student voter participation, campuses must remove physical and psychological barriers that students face in voting and change systems to ensure that all students have equitable access to the democratic process,” said NCoC Program Manager Carmen Liñero Lopez when presenting the award to UW-Madison. 

The SLSV Coalition — a program within the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) — is a nonpartisan network focused on “voter participation and civic engagement” among college students. For the past four years, the coalition has worked to provide strategic direction, connections, resources and funding for local leaders.

“Simply: We bring together campus, nonprofit, community, student and philanthropic leaders with the goal of increasing student voter participation,” the SLSV “Our Work” web page reads.

According to Lopez, UW-Madison was recognized by the coalition specifically for its student voter-compliant ID program. Through this program, the university motivated SLSV values of more access to voting and the elimination of barriers that may prevent individuals from performing civic duties.

UW-Madison voter-compliant IDs are accessible through the university’s Wiscard office, which helps grant out-of-state students the eligibility to vote in the state of Wisconsin if they have lived in Wisconsin for a minimum of 28 consecutive days prior to Election Day, turned 18 years old by Election Day and are U.S. citizens. 

“On election day alone, 471 cards were issued to students,” said UW-Madison Director of News and Media Relations Meredith McGlone.

The program allowed out-of-state students the opportunity to vote in a swing state with an exceptionally high youth electoral significance, and the university voter information website provided step-by-step instructions for all students navigating the voting process.

Voter turnout ironically decreased by 31 percent compared to voter turnout in 2016 across 12 student-heavy wards in Madison. Dorm residents saw a 56 percent decrease in voter turnout when put up against 2016 numbers, though this is likely at least partially explained by changes in student residency during the pandemic. 

“This congratulations does go to our student leaders and the student body here at UW-Madison, as that’s why we are here,” said Voter Engagement and Civic Learning Coordinator Zachery Holder, who accepted the SLSV award on behalf of the BadgersVote initiative and Morgridge Center for Public Service

“This would not be possible as well without our campus collaboration. I think it’s really important to give some shoutouts to our department of information technology, DoIT — really helped us make some things happen, as well as our university relations and our university communications team, university legal and our Wiscard office,” Holder continued. “And, of course, my home, which is the Morgridge Center.”

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Holder used the concluding segment of his acceptance speech to thank the women in his life who have contributed to his work with voter engagement and civic learning at the university. Cristina Johnson (Assistant Director of Civic Engagement Communications), Katherine “Kathy” Cramer (Professor and Natalie C. Holton Chair of Letters & Science), Tamia Fowlkes (Big Ten Voting Challenge Intern) and Megan Miller (former Assistant Director of Civic Engagement and Communications and current Strategic Partnerships Specialist) were listed as the UW-Madison student and faculty members who played essential roles in executing the university’s voter participation and civic engagement initiatives leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

According to McGlone, Holder and Johnson collectively acknowledge campus and community partners for “coming together to remove the barrier of voter identification at the polls.”

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